A New Movement for Health and Happiness: Next Steps

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How to combat health care costs, climate change, and car culture with a few easy steps. 

In a recent post we explored a community of do-gooders excited about an age-old tool that lowers health care costs, builds strong neighborhoods, and fights climate change: walking. With obesity, carbon emissions, and car culture more out of control than ever, taking steps to make walking more mainstream and more accessible may have big implications for the country and the planet.   

Here are a few easy steps you can follow to jumpstart a walking movement in your community. To read Jay Walljasper’s original report on the new walking movement, click here.


1) What we can all do together

Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Walking: In spring 2014, the proposed Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Walking will offer the movement a prime time opportunity to encourage more Americans to walk, just as the 1964 Surgeon General’s report discouraged millions from smoking.

Organize Local and Regional Walking Summits: Local communities are the legs of the movement, so regional gatherings to share best practices and broaden awareness are an important next step.

Hold Another National Walking Summit: Follow up on the energy and buzz of this summit with another where people can meet colleagues from across the country, brainstorm and influence national policy — to be held perhaps in two years.

Take a Look at Best Practices from Other Countries: Unfortunately, the U.S. ranks near the bottom of nations when it comes to walking. Australians — who share our fondness for car ownership and suburban living — walk almost twice as many steps a day as Americans. Why?

2) What you and other local walking advocates can do

Identify and Boost the Efforts of Walk Champions: Grassroots leaders are already promoting walking in every town — the parents who organize walk-to-school groups, the retiree who gets his neighbors out for a stroll, the office worker who encourages her colleagues to walk at lunchtime. Help these unsung heroes get your community back on its feet.

Engage Young People: Showing kids how to walk safely in their community should be part of grade school curriculum, and walking advocacy groups should invite the involvement of teenagers. Indeed, three California high school students traveled to the D.C. summit to talk about how important walking is to their lives.

Establish Indoor Walking Courses: When rain, snow, cold or heat hit, make sure people can walk indoors at a designated location like a community center, school, mall or big-box store.

Keep Streets Clean: The perception that streets are not safe for walking is as much a deterrent as actual dangers. Eliminating litter, graffiti and other unsightly surroundings will boost pedestrian activity, says Wendy Landman of Walk Boston. 

3) What you can do

Walk or Roll 30 Minutes a Day: In the morning. On lunch breaks. After dinner. With your dog. With your kids. With friends or neighbors. Do errands on foot.

Take the Walking Pledge: Commit yourself to walking by signing the pledge at EveryBodyWalk.org, which is also a great source of information and encouragement. Don’t miss the two-minute West Wing Reunion video, where the cast reunites in the White House for a skit about the benefits of walking.

Join the Walking Movement: Contact info@americawalks.orgfor more information, including how to meet other walking advocates in your community.

Watch The Walking Revolution:Every Body Walk! and Kaiser Permanente released Walking Revolution, an inspiring video spelling out the benefits of physical activity and capturing the energy of Americans’ growing interest in walking.

Try a Walking Meeting or Standing Phone Call: Eighty percent of Americans work at jobs that require little or no physical activity. Suggest a walking meeting to add some health-enhancing movement to the workday. Take phone calls standing up or walking around your desk.

Don’t Just Talk About Walking: Jonah Berger, a bestselling author about how new ideas catch on, noted that the vast majority of people will think of “jelly” every time “peanut butter” is mentioned. He challenged summit participants to come up with walking movement’s versions of peanut butter: Better health and walking, great neighborhoods and walking, good friends and walking…

Excerpted from the booklet Walking As a Way of Life: Movement for Health & Happiness. Jay Walljasper writes, speaks and consults about creating healthy, lively communities.  His website: JayWalljasper.com

Image by Keroyama, licensed on Creative Commons.

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